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An Interview With The U-T's Matthew T. Hall, Part Two

After a long delay due to technical issues and the holiday, we are finally able to bring you Part Two of my interview with Matthew T. Hall. We finish the off the interview by talking about San Diego as a ‘sports city’ and steroids. You can read Part One here. Please read Hall’s great work in the U-T and follow him on twitter: @SDuncovered

(Also from the corrections department ((i.e. e-mails)) the U-T is now called the Union-Tribune San Diego, and Matthew Hall had season tickets WITH his friend, his friend didn’t have them on his own.)

Enjoy Part Two:

D: You pretty much grew up on the East Coast, so you’re used to sports and local teams kind of being a much more important thing to a community. There are even great college traditions out there. And especially during the winters, there’s just not a lot to do so you stay in to watch the games or brave the weather to support the team. I think San Diegans always use that as an excuse for not supporting their own teams, that’s there’s just so much to do here.

MH: I think it’s just a different mindset here. It’s different in every city and every city has its passionate fans. I think it depends on history and family. Like when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I’m proud to say I was one of the 55,000 people in St. Louis who saw the game. And there were people crying, people who said they broke open bottles of whisky they’d been saving for that moment, people going to gravesites to share the moment with dead family members. I don’t think that’ll happen if the Padres win the World Series.

D: (laughs) Probably not.

MH: They’ll be very happy, you know? But, it’s just a totally different mindset.

D: It’s weird to me that there is that different mindset, and that it’s passed off as a geographical issue. But, sports writers always say, “If the city sucks, they know at the very least they’ll always have a team to root for.” And here we are, sitting outside in 75-degree weather; I mean our city is awesome.

MH: Yea, but if people are passionate they’ll come out no matter what. I mean, lately even the Chargers have been a tough sell and San Diego is a Chargers town.

D: But, how much of a Chargers town can this be when we can barely sell out home games? This is a problem we’ve had for years now.

MH: That’s a valid question. On the U-T’s website we have a stat that always shows the paper’s top ten stories and during the football season, anything to do with the Chargers is routinely in the top ten. Sometimes they take up five of the top ten stories. Maybe a Padres story will break in there every now and then, like Yasmani Grandal’s suspension, but not often.

D: Yea, which goes back to Padres to the People. You ended up starting it at the right time TV wise, but the worst time possible the way the team was playing.

MH: I think I put the first column out right around the All-Star Break and the team was on a winning streak. But, I think if I had done it earlier in the season, people would not have cared as much. But, at the break we were winning, the young guys were making a splash and it was like, “Come on man, we still can’t see this team?!” What I really enjoyed was the human aspect of it. At the Padres rally, older people with mobility problems came out just so they could be a part of it. It sounds dramatic, but I got e-mails from 90 year olds who basically said they might die before they get to see this team on TV. It really broke my heart. And, that’s why I did it.

D: Exactly.

MH: It’s not easy to take the whole family down to Petco, so you have a lot of these kids who want to watch the team on TV, but can’t and that’s a whole generation of fans the team is losing. It’s also a lot of money the team could be making off of that fan over the span of their interest. It’s really a business decision. You’ve got new ownership coming in and that’s another thing that upsets me. At their press conference they didn’t address the TV situation at all. You think they would have said something, but nothing.

D: I think people would have even liked an empty promise.

MH: Yep.

D: I grew up in San Diego a die-hard Padres fan. But, it seems like many sportswriters at the U-T and other media outlets, especially radio, kind of hold these guys hands. They never call out the team or it’s players and they kind of just wish for the best. Because you are from Boston where calling out the team is much more common, did that make it easier for you to start this campaign?

MH: Well, in a place like Boston the team and owners get called out because the fans expect it. They want the media to share their passion and I think in San Diego people take a little more hands off approach. Except in radio, those guys are always vilifying, maybe a little too much –

D: Except for in San Diego. I think radio is just as bad as print. You hear those talking heads and they’ll be like, “Well, we have Bud Black with us, so let’s not ask him anything interesting. What’d ya have for breakfast, Buddy?”

(Laughs)

D: “Oh, really? Well, everything’s great! See ya next time!”

MH: Ha! Yea, yea and maybe it’s because I’m an in your face type of person that I just did what I did. But, I was also interested to see how the fans would react. If I called them out and nothing happened, then maybe this Padres to the People movement is gonna die a very quick death.

D: I did want to ask you quickly about the recent Yasmani Grandal issue. I wrote about this the other day and kind of formulated a different opinion about it. Grandal and Melky Cabrera are in this timeframe where they would have been very impressionable kids during the great homerun race in 1998.

MH: Interesting.

D: It feels like after they realized they lost a whole generation of players, Baseball started to really care about saving the kids from steroids. Now their worst fears came true and these players who were kids in ’98 are now busted for steroids. Do you think we can totally place the blame on them when they saw their heroes doing it? Can we totally blame them?

MH: Well, that’s a complicated question. Cheating in sports has and will always happen. It’s like with the clear, they’re always trying to stay one step ahead of testing and the rules. But, of course kids are gonna envy that stuff. Look at what makes Sportscenter – homeruns! That will always be the highlight.

D: It definitely seems like that’s what kids will always want to emulate, because those highlights make people famous and get people bigger contracts.

MH: Exactly, and I think that could have easily influenced today’s players. Whether it actually played a part in their decision-making is another thing, but it is very possible.

D: I proposed in that same column that perhaps the only real way to alleviate steroids in Baseball is to employ a life ban on the first positive test.

MH: I think that’s a bit drastic, but it probably would be the only way to actually get rid of steroids. If players knew it was one and done, they more than likely wouldn’t risk it, but you never know, everyone’s looking for that edge. I think Baseball’s current rules do help curb steroid use. But, they kind of put themselves in this position.

D: Yea, this has been happening for a lot longer than most people realize.

MH: Look at the 1970’s and even part of the 1960’s, players were taking “greenies” and all sorts of things. It’s just how it is. I saw Sammy Sosa hit his first homerun at Fenway Park, and he was just this little string bean of a guy. But, even then he looked like he could be something special, and I wonder how much he actually needed the steroids to make that happen. But, even this taps back into the TV deal. Yasmani was a part of that. Here was this young exciting player, that was good and marketable and now who knows? It also begs the question about Chase Headley.

D: Whoa, I honestly didn’t even think about that.

MH: Yea, and I do not want to accuse him of anything, but it should raise a few eyebrows that he all of a sudden put up this career year.

D: It’s that belief that if one guy in the clubhouse is doing it, then who got him hooked on it?

MH: Of course, yea, and Chase says it’s because he changed a little quirk in his swing…that may well be the truth. It probably is, but nowadays you have to be suspicious of everybody who puts up great numbers out of nowhere.

D: Oh, you don’t have to tell me about Chase’s year, I had him in a fantasy league.

MH: So you know all about it! (Laughs) It just makes me sad, and can be very unfair to some of these guys. But, you just never know. It’ll be interesting to see how fans treat Yasmani when he comes back.

D: Agreed, and as a Red Sox fan you’ve been through the David Ortiz rumors and the actual issues with Manny. Were you able to forgive? Do you think we should?

MH: I do. I think these guys are born with a competitive edge and make mistakes. However, if they were to get caught a second time, which is what happened essentially with Manny, then that’s a different story and I don’t think you can forgive that.

D: It’s a situation where they know full well what’s going on at this point and they’re clearly making the decision to do right or wrong – again.

MH: Yea, It’s a touchy issue. It’s also very complicated for us to understand what goes through these guys’ heads. Many fans will not support the steroid users when they come back and that’s fine. It’s their right and I think as fans we make that decision individually. I hope Yasmani comes back and can brush this off, and move on. The team certainly needs him to step up.

D: Yea, or we have another year of watching Hundley bounce around .170

MH: Exactly.

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Tags: Matthew T. Hall MLB San Diego Padres Yasmani Grandal

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